This article proposes a system of dispute resolution for the virtual world of Second Life. Virtual worlds offer a unique opportunity to examine real world law in a similar environment. These environments might very well be the electronic market place of the future, replacing traditional two-dimensional web pages, but they also provide a fascinating way to experiment with legal theories. There are numerous ways in which the dispute resolution system may be implemented and numerous types of disputes to which it may be applied, but this article focuses on disputes that arise in Second Life’s vibrant fashion industry.

 

Fashion law in the real world operates in a contradictory way — low intellectual property protections do not result in a lessening of innovation, as one would expect, but rather, foster creativity. Against this backdrop of virtual worlds and electronic commerce, fashion-related disputes are used as a springboard to build a system of dispute resolution for a broad range of other conflicts.

 

I. Introduction

 

Second Life is a 3-D virtual world, created by Linden Labs, where the residents can build and own property parcels. [1] Further, residents can craft virtually anything and own the intellectual property rights to their creations. [2]

 

Just as in real life, however, conflicts arise. This article will outline steps for resolving disputes that arise “in-world” by using the example of fashion-related disputes. The wide range of issues that can arise, as well as the multitude of questions that follow, necessitate this course of action. For example, disputes over in-world casinos raise the question of accretion of real world income, while disputes over speech lead to questions of First Amendment protections. The scope of fashion disputes will not be limited to disputes between two users. Real world designers will also be able to use the dispute resolution process to put a halt to trademark violations, as well as stop the practice of directly copying real world designs for in-world couture. By focusing on fashion, this article will provide a blueprint for Second Life and other such virtual worlds to create a system of dispute resolution that will enable their continued growth.

 

Sarah E. Galbraith, J.D.